‘We are asking for your help,” parents at TriBeCa’s PS 234 read in an unusual letter from “the teachers and staff” of their children’s school. “Educators and students are trapped in a system designed to halt innovation and sustain oppression.”
The letter condemned standardized testing as a waste of money and of teachers’ time, explaining that it yields no valuable data on student learning and has a detrimental effect on the school. In the letter, teachers explained that parents have the choice to opt out their children of the upcoming tests of English and math skills in third through eighth grades.
The letter was measured and professional. But in the currently charged climate, the teachers were brave to write it.
The text was emailed to me by teachers at PS 234 who repeatedly asked for assurances that their names would not be made public. They and other testing critics say officials in the city Department of Education are suggesting that teachers and principals should not discuss the opt-out movement with parents.
Still, the PS 234 teachers and staff wrote the letter despite the Department of Education’s supposed position.
Anita Skop is the superintendent of Brooklyn’s District 15, where my fourth-grader attends school and will opt out of the state tests next month for the second year in a row. In a December public forum, Skop said teachers should not discuss the opt-out movement with parents. “They have no right,” she said.
In case anyone was confused, she reiterated her position. “They have no right to say, ‘This is how I feel.’ ”
The Department of Education must stop trying to silence educators.
In Chicago, city officials are investigating whether school personnel are to blame for some schools’ high opt-out rates. The city has set up an email address so parents can report teachers who speak out on the issue.
Let’s not let them go that far in New York City.
Mayor Bill de Blasio campaigned as an opponent of excessive standardized testing. School officials should not be stifling the opinions of the well-informed professionals who agree with him.
Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill.